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Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith Paperback – February 15, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 275 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Anchor Books ed edition (February 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385496095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385496094
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (458 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For most writers, the greatest challenge of spiritual writing is to keep it grounded in concrete language. The temptation is to wander off into the clouds of ethereal epiphanies, only to lose readers with woo-woo thinking and sacred-laced clichés. Thankfully, Anne Lamott (Operating Instructions, Crooked Little Heart) knows better. In this collection of essays, Lamott offers her trademark wit and irreverence in describing her reluctant journey into faith. Every epiphany is framed in plainspoken (and, yes, occasionally crassly spoken) real-life, honest-to-God experiences. For example, after having an abortion, Lamott felt the presence of Christ sitting in her bedroom:
This experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just an apparition born of fear and self-loathing and booze and loss of blood. But then everywhere I went I had the feeling that a little cat was following me, wanting me to reach down and pick it up, wanting me to open the door and let it in. But I knew what would happen: you let a cat in one time, give it a little milk and then it stays forever.
Whether she's writing about airplane turbulence, bulimia, her "feta cheese thighs," or consulting God over how to parent her son, Lamott keeps her spirituality firmly planted in solid scenes and believable metaphors. As a result, this is a richly satisfying armchair-travel experience, highlighting the tender mercies of Lamott's life that nudged her into Christian faith. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

A key moment in the step-by-step spiritual awakening of the author came to her as a freshman in college when an impassioned professor taught her Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling. Raised by her bohemian California family to believe only in "books and music and nature," Lamott (Bird by Bird; Operating Instructions) was enthralled by the Danish philosopher's rendition of the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham, Lamott learned, so trusted in God's love that he was willing to follow the order to sacrifice his own son. This story pierced Lamott and she "crossed over. I don't know how else to put it or how and why I actively made, if not exactly a leap of faith, a lurch of faith.... I left class believing?accepting?that there was a God." Nonetheless, it would take the heartbreak of her father's death and more than a dozen years of escalating drug and alcohol addiction to bring Lamott to fully embrace Christianity. In a short autobiography and 24 vignettes that appeared in earlier versions in the online magazine Salon, Lamott blends raw emotional honesty with self-mocking goofiness to show how the faith she has cultivated at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in the poor community of Marin City, Calif., translates into her everyday life and friendships, especially into her relationship with her young son, Sam. Although Lamott's clever style sometimes feels too calculated, the best bits here memorably convey the peace that can descend when a sensitive, modern woman accepts the love of God with her own brand of fear and trembling. First serial to Mirabella; author tour. Agent, Chuck Verrill.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Anne Lamott is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Grace (Eventually), Plan B, Traveling Mercies, and Operating Instructions, as well as seven novels, including Rosie and Crooked Little Heart. She is a past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Customer Reviews

This book is very dog-eared with much of it underlined or highlighted.
Sarah Hayes
Lamott's response, I think, powerfully demonstrates that the church, and God's love, is big enough for all of us, even those of us who struggle along our path.
J. Newsome
One can't help but come to love this child of God, and everyone in her life.
Michelaneous by Michele

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

247 of 263 people found the following review helpful By Eric Wilson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
I had no idea what to expect in this, my first encounter with Anne Lamott. The wide assortment of reviews convinced me to purchase the book--plus, the idea of reverence paired with irreverence, since we can all use a little humor to season the subjects that matter most...that therefore become so stinkin' divisive! Wow! When I'm not laughing at Anne's great writing and gritty insights, I'm pushing down that lump in my throat. Anne plants and waters the flowers of faith and grace, but pats down their seeds beneath the coarse dirt and smelly manure of life. I'm not trying to match her metaphors, I'm merely responding to the fresh light she's shone on my own recent experiences. This woman can write and, boy, does she have something to say. If she steps on your toes to get to the podium, so be it. Hear her out. She writes of a heartfelt belief in Jesus that I share. But she also drags out the skeletons that we born-again Christians are so afraid to let out. Ironic, isn't it, that those who follow Christ--the most amazing example of love and acceptance and forgiveness to the "unlovely"--are the very ones who insecurely point their fingers at those outside their box. I grew up in that box. I still love Jesus, still consider myself "born-again," but I, along with Anne Lamott, refuse to live in that box anymore. Jesus, speaking to the religious leaders of his day, called them "white-washed tombs full of dead man's bones." Anne, in her gracious, irreverent way, says the same. Mercy me! What a breath of fresh air!
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70 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Carol Mead on April 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
If you're experiencing a lot of spiritual "static" as I am right now, this book will immediately make you feel better. It will assure you that you're not the only one to feel doubt and need and grief, and yet it will give you countless opportunities to release those emotions through laughter.
I have highlighted much of the book so that I can reread the great ways that Anne Lamott captures these experiences. She talks about grieving over her late best friend, saying she was, "thinking of how much we lose, yet how much remains." Then she says, "I thought maybe I wouldn't feel so bad if I didn't have such big pieces of [her friend} still inside me, but then I thought, I want those pieces in me for the rest of my life, whatever it costs me."
Lamott writes about trying hard to translate her spiritual beliefs into everyday treatment of others, and she's particularly funny when she writes about the mother of her son's friend. She berates the woman first for wearing bicycle shorts ("because she can"). Lamott says, "...she does not have an ounce of fat on her body. I completely hate that in a person. I consider it an act of aggression against the rest of us mothers who forgot to start working out after we had our kids." Lamott tries to be better, saying, "I tried to will myself into forgiving various people who had harmed me directly or indirectly over the years--four former Republican presidents, three relatives, two old boyfriends, and one teacher in a pear tree--it was "The Twelve Days of Christmas" meets "Taxi Driver."
I loved this book. I didn't want it to end. It made me laugh. It made me think. These are qualities I seek in my friends and my books.
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70 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Sophia VINE VOICE on August 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
In "Travelling Mercies", Anne Lamott chronicles her journey of faith. From drug addiction, to alcoholism: through the deaths of her father and best friend, and the birth of her son, Ms. Lamott traces her spiritual journey in a series of moving, funny, and deeply personal anecdotes. One warning: this book is probably not for those seeking a traditionally-minded, conservative Christian memoir, as it is definitely not either traditional or conservative!
For those whose faith is less structured, this book is an incredibly funny, searingly personal and deeply moving account of one woman's transformation through faith. Ms. Lamott possesses the rare gift of translating her faith into day-to-day experiences and sharing her innermost, most difficult or stressful thoughts in a very funny, realistic, human way.
Other readers have mentioned the story of the woman in bicycle shorts (Ms. Lamott's "Enemy Lite."), which is truly hilarious. Other highlights included the"celebration" of Ash Wednesday, and her encounter with another Christian whose faith seemed to be quite a different order from her own. Ms. Lamott is also wonderful when she writes about children: whether about her own son or her friends' children.
This would make a wonderful gift for those who are "teetering on the edge" of Christianity, wondering, can this faith, this tradition possibly ever mean anything to me? Through these stories, Anne Lamott illustrates the miracle that is her faith, and leaves the door open for anyone who wants to follow. A wonderful, inspiring and very funny book.
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76 of 84 people found the following review helpful By DannyB on March 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
As a word of warning, this book is full of crass and offensive language and situations. You will not find someone pretending that everything is okay, but freely admitting the painful details of her life. Lamott has suffered through many trials in her past including early and frequent promiscuity and abortion, heavy drug use, financial problems, alcoholism, bulimia, and suicidal thoughts. Yet, because of this `hold nothing back' mentality, the book is very real, funny and sometimes insightful. We see a woman grasping for faith and hope in the midst of a crazy life full of heartache.

This book may help those who feel they are unacceptable to the church because of things they have done. Lamott reminds us that God's grace is for all people in all circumstances. It pushes us past the misunderstandings of Christians as people who have everything together. Here, we find a very non-typical `Christian' woman, who may help reach others with the Good News that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. I would recommend this book to friends and others who have been turned off by traditional Christianity, hoping that it may provide a door for them to reconsider what this Jesus stuff is all about.

Finally, the book serves as call for all of us in the church to live out the Gospel message through lives of love and service. Lammott says, "when I was at the end of my rope, the people at St. Andrew tied a knot in it for me and helped me hold on. The church had become my home" (100). I pray that her experience may describe all of our churches as we reach out and welcome in all types of people, so that they may know their true home in the unconditional love of Christ.
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